Yesterday, the Cleveland professional baseball franchise announced that they’ll be removing the“Chief Wahoo” logo from their uniforms next year. It comes after decades of complaints that the image, a grinning, red-faced, bulb-nosed, horse-toothed caricature is racist.
The image is clearly racist.
Last year, Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball, began pressuring Cleveland chairman Larry Dolan to give up the logo, which has been alive in some form since 1948. (Earlier, if you consider the old newspaper cartoons of an actual Native American player named Sockalexis.) In a statement provided to The New York Times, yesterday, Manfred said that Dolan “ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
Although there are millions of dollar at stake whenever a rebranding effort happens, it’s not just about the money. Part of the attachment to names like the “Indians” and caricatures like Chief Wahoo, is embedded in American culture and a twisted sentimentality that continues to this day.
Think about the Washington “Redskins,” a team that uses what many believe to be an n-word level racial slur in its name. (Even Cleveland’s Larry Dolan has said that if the Cleveland team had been called Redskins,” he would have changed the name the day after he owned the team.)
According to C. Richard King, a Washington State University professor who teaches and writes about race, gender and indigenous issues, “That the team would have settled on the name unselfconsciously underscores how deep the entitlement and attachment to all things ‘Indian’ were at the time, and how deeply embedded anti-Indian racism was in American public culture.”
His most recent book, Redskins: Insult and Brand, an unflinching look at the history and impact of the Washington team’s controversial name, helps to explain why otherwise nice people insist that Indian motifs are well intended and symbolic of good things – like pride, competition, and excellence.
But besides the decades of activism and complaints, King cites numerous studies, including one by the American Psychological Association, that say turning indigenous people into cartoonish stereotypes does them lasting harm. “Clearly, whatever the intention, mascots hurt, underscoring the deep impacts of anti-Indian racism as well as the history and power anchoring it,” he says.
In other words, Indian names and symbols are now understood to be hurtful to others.
The mascot may not be going away entirely. The Cleveland team will not relinquish the Chief Wahoo trademark, which will prevent it being adopted and misused by others, but will also allow them to continue to sell merchandise bearing the logo at their stadium and in Northeast Ohio if they choose.
But they can make a different choice.
It would be nice if Chief Wahoo was moved to a permanent home in a museum, where his role in history could be properly understood. And it would be a smart move for the franchise to lose the name, while they’re at it. It’s a tough conversation, but long overdue. When entertainment franchises stop willfully hurting people, everyone wins.
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|The plan is based on surveys and meetings with over 1,000 staff, faculty, students and alumni, and aims to better address bias in general, but also the specific concerns of students and faculty of color. “As a community, we have been challenged to confront incidents of racism, discrimination, inequity, bias, and threats of violence,” says the announcement. “In 2017, after the university began making promising, but insufficient progress to address these issues, we experienced even more egregious acts of hate and bias.” They’ve posted their complete plan, with goals, timeline and impacts, and it’s all worth your time. Also worth noting, the great Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Research Policy Center is slated to open this year.|
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|Air Force Times|
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The Woke Leader
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|New York Magazine|
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